Jumpstarting my Inspiration

Blogging inspirationWho:      Incredible bloggers from around the country
What:    BlogU14
Where:  Baltimore, Maryland
Why:      Looking to improve my blogging skills
When:     June 6-8, 2014
How:      Attending classes, networking and making new friends

Last weekend I had the privilege of stepping outside my comfort zone and attending Blog University. It was the first time this particular conference had been held and involved over 100 people, some hoping to start a blog and others, published authors.

I was amazed by how supportive and helpful all the bloggers were in sharing their journeys and what actions led to their success. I learned so much. While I was aware how important it is to build relationships with others who write to a similar audience, I never realized how much we can help each other.

Thank you for your support, your courage and most of all, your willingness to share your time and knowledge with me. You have inspired me to keep working away, word by word, in my part of the world. I can’t wait to meet again.

Can We Be Truly Objective – Travel Writing

Travel WritingWe had an interesting discussion in my new writing class yesterday. The instructor is a travel writer, previously working for Outside Magazine and then as an independent with articles appearing in the New York Times and National Geographic, among other major publications. So, he’s a pro.

“What is the future of travel writing?”

The question he asked hung in the air for a moment before he began talking about how the internet has changed writing. In the past, writers proposed stories to editors and, if interested, they would be sent out to complete the piece. Travel costs were covered and the writer would be paid for his/her time. Articles may have paid a writer up to $10,000. At that time, writers could get by with 6-8 published articles a year, depending upon their lifestyle.

With the advent of the internet, magazines and newspapers have shrunk in size, some even going out of business. Online reporting is at an all time high. Frankly, that’s where I get my news. Where writers were paid for content before, many bloggers submit articles or posts for free for the “exposure”. The Huffington Post comes to mind, but I’m sure there are others.

Then the discussion moved specifically to travel blogging. There are successful travel bloggers who earn a good living, not many, but there are some. Our instructor believes that blogging may be the future of travel writing, with bloggers earning money from ads on their sites. That brought up another questions to ponder.

“Can you truly be objective if you receive free accommodations, access to activities, meals, flights or other subsidies for your travel?”

In order to be “objective”, magazine publishers would not allow writers to accept “gifts” from businesses they were going to be reporting on. In comparison, travel bloggers may receive free “gifts” that essentially discount their travel in exchange for those businesses being included in the final review.

Most bloggers disclose receiving discounts and free products or services to their readers and mention that their opinions are their own. What happens, however, if the accommodations are horrible and that information is reported in a post? Would other businesses still want that same blogger to write about their product knowing that the writer is brutally honest? And, if you enjoyed your time, could it be because you were treated differently than a regular traveler because the business knew they were being evaluated?

I certainly don’t have the answers to these tough questions. If you are a travel blogger, how else do you get “paid” for your work? It’s definitely a dilemma. As someone who wants to include travel reporting in my blog, I’d love to be as objective as possible, but does that mean I can never be paid for my time?

What do you think?

Tough Love Writing

Writing Block

“You’re scary!”

The instructor was a little taken aback at the comment from one of the young women in the writing class. I knew just what she meant. The discussion came after we spent some time selecting one character from our story and then identifying his or her desires, wants, needs and weaknesses.

I had just finished sharing what I’d written down and I was so far off base. The instructor kept pushing, “More detail, more specific! Why is that important? Why? Why? Why?” It was a very uncomfortable place to be. I didn’t have the answers and wasn’t even clear about the difference between desires, wants and needs.

I debated not attending the second session, because I’d left the first one feeling like I’d jumped into a class too far above my skill level. But, in the end, I decided it was already paid for and I was bound to learn something new.

This week’s class exercise was to write down the point of the story. What is it that you want your main character and your audience to discover at the end? And, what is the climactic event that leads to that discovery?

Several people volunteered to share. Most students were too generic with their responses and so the instructor kept pushing and putting them on the spot. They were uncomfortable, but the results were incredible.

As the instructor got ready to move on, I lifted my hand. He asked me if I wanted to share. Somehow I knew that I would lose something if I didn’t grab the moment.

My responses, as expected, were too broad and muddy.  As the instructor pushed and prodded, I struggled for the answers. My fellow students added their thoughts and my brain hurt as I tried to find the right words. And…as the hot seat sizzled…ZING! There it was…the point of my story in three words.

The tough love has led to places I never would have imagined. This instructor is so powerfully passionate about story telling and his commitment to each one of us, that he pushes us far beyond our own comfort zone. While I’ve always thought I could write a book, after this week’s class, I believe it.

I can’t wait until next week. Hmmm…I wonder what else he teaches? Thank you, Michael!!

Writing Journeys

Writing Journey

It’s over.

I finished my first writing class Writing 101 at the Lighthouse in Denver. One of my goals, or resolutions for 2014, was to improve my writing skills. While several of my other resolutions are stalled right now, this one has moved forward.

What did I learn in this four week class?

  • Relax and let it flow– Don’t worry about punctuation or spelling, just write. Exercises with writing prompts and time limits forced me to put something down on the paper. I’d get started and somehow, finishing the first rough section would lead on into other thoughts.
  • There is and should be more than one style-  As our class shared writings, I found they were so different. The same prompt ended up in so many different places…and each one was amazing in its own way.
  • Not every story deserves to be in the light- Some stories, or what I would consider to be my ramblings, will never be shared. I’m still glad I put them down on paper and someday, parts of them may evolve into future stories.
  • Write it by hand- I’m not sure what it was about writing in a journal, but the flow of my writing improved when I got rid of the keypad. Our instructor and the majority of students agreed that it made a big difference.
  • Most importantly, I can do it- As many of you know, I was afraid of taking this class. I needed to overcome my lack of confidence to even show up. Let’s face it, some of my writing sucks, but there are fun glimpses of hope for future success.

So what’s next?

The other students and I are starting a writer’s group. Not everyone is participating, but I’m excited to be challenged by those who are. The first meeting is tomorrow night at a local coffee shop. That’s a logical place for this part of the journey.

I signed up for my second round, Four Week Craft Series: Plotting the Plotted Plot, starting this Thursday. While there are other classes that might have been the next logical step, they didn’t quite fit my schedule. I received an email from the instructor a few days ago letting us know we would be working on one of our stories. I looked back at my writings from the first class and found one that might work. That’s a relief.

A writing challenge:

The writing prompts in class were really helpful to leading me in new directions. So here’s a suggested prompt for those of you interested in giving it a shot. Remember, no perfection allowed.

Look around the room and find a newspaper, magazine or other written material with pictures. Go to page 23, or the next page with photographs. Select one and write a story about it. Don’t think about it. Just set your clock or cell phone timer to seven minutes and write.

Only seven minutes of your time could be the start of something big.

Happy writing!!

Prompting a Story

Young Woman Writing in Her Journal

Last night was the second session of my writing class, Writing 101. Considering how afraid I was to begin, I’m amazed at what a difference it has made already in the way I think and feel about writing. The group is filled with nine women from diverse backgrounds. The stories we share are so wonderfully different.

The exercises the instructor uses to trigger our writing are sometimes difficult and sometimes fun.

How does it work?

Last night, we were each given a small piece of paper to write down three things:

A color
An object
The name of a person

Then, we passed our paper to the person on our right. We had five minutes to write a story that included the three words we’d just received…blue, book, John.

Ready, set, go…

He sat on the floor and pretended to play with his cars while his mother rested in a nearby chair. She was doing it again, writing in the blue book. The sound of her pen on paper was almost silent and she’d pause, looking up. Then she began writing furiously, forcing her pen against the paper, scratching so loudly it could have been the sound of the engine in one of his cars. 

John looked up as the writing stopped and saw his mother weeping. What was in the book that would make her cry? As he jumped up to hug her tears away, he tried to see what was written on the pages, but she quickly closed the book, sealing the mystery inside.

One day he was going to find the book and open it to reveal the pain. He would rip out the pages that caused his mother to cry and bury each one in a separate place in the yard, never to be found again. Then, he would buy another book, not blue, but a bright yellow like the sun and write his own story that would make his mother laugh and dance with joy, just like before.

After sleeping last night, I revisited the story and made minor modifications. I loved this writing prompt and the story that came out of it. Are there things you use to trigger your writing?

Let the Writing Begin

Thumbsup

I was early…really early.

Entering the magnificent historic mansion, I turned into a small room with comfortable chairs and sat down. As I took time to look around, I noticed incredible detail in the molding and fixtures. What a perfect warm welcoming place to begin my very first writing class.

Yesterday morning had started with fear. Could I actually write a book? What if my writing sucked? What if I’d been dreaming to write a novel my whole life and I wasn’t up to the task? I shared my fears in my post 50,000 Words or More and the most amazing people appeared with incredible wisdom and support.

“We just need to remember we’re trying to improve our own skills, learn a roadmap to follow as we write through the process, and come from a place of service, ie, that we’re hoping to write something others will enjoy reading. What better gift can you give to the world?” 

“You will LOVE it!! I’ll be thinking of you.”

“You have taken that first step and you are going to be great. Each step will open another door in front of you and another and another until you find yourself one day announcing your first book. I am looking forward to that day!!!”

These are only brief glimpses into the many comments written by people I’ve never met in person. As I read the words again this morning, they still bring tears to my eyes.

After I finished work yesterday, I had time to grab quick bite to eat before heading to the Lighthouse. Thank goodness for wireless internet. I checked in and read all of the comments. Never doubt the power of the written word to inspire and encourage someone. The strength of the writers jumped out of my iPad and into my heart and head. I felt the love and support and it made all the difference. I walked into the class excited, confident and ready to begin.

“A sputter and small flame begins to melt the wax of possibilities, a quickened heart beat. Can I? Dare I dream to be me and speak loudly in a voice that has been hidden? Writing my own rules, playing my own game…”

Let the writing begin.

50,000 Words or More

writing book

Once upon a time…

I searched through the course catalog. A Certificate in Creative Writing? I felt my heart blossom just thinking about it. I’d just finished my Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Management and was considering continuing my education in a completely different direction…until I noticed that the classes weren’t always held every semester so I’d need to either fill in with other non-relevant courses or begin paying my student loan while still adding more debt. So, I walked away.

It’s always been a dream of mine to write a book. But I’ve never quite known where to begin. So I haven’t. The thought of writing more than 50,000 words has frozen me in my tracks. I write a blog post several times a week and probably average about 400 words, but more than 100 blog posts put together with a logical and enticing flow?

Despite my fear and doubt, I’m stepping forward. My writing class, Writing 101: Gotta Start Somewhere starts tonight. The course description sealed the deal for me when I signed up last month.

“You want to write, but you have no idea how to begin. Or, you’re not sure what form you’d like to try-fiction, nonfiction, poetry, memoir. Perhaps you’ve even got a sizzling writing idea, but can’t quite muster up the courage to take a craft workshop. You might even be a highly experienced writer who’s stuck. That’s quite all right: This experiential,
non-critiquing writing workshop is for you.”

It sounds perfect. So why is my heart in my throat? Why am I a bit sick to my stomach? The questions keep flooding my mind. What if I’m not any good? What if I have to share my writing and it sucks compared to other students? What if? What if? What if?

I bought a beautiful journal and some colorful pens just to begin the class on a good note. While I am still afraid to attend, I’m more afraid not to reach out toward a lifelong dream. So, I’m stepping past my fear into a new adventure.

Is there a time in your life where you’ve overcome your fears to realize a dream?